Verma committee flooded with suggestions on rape

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Delhi Gang
New Delhi, Dec 26: A three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India JS Verma began its deliberations on Wednesday. It will suggest amendments in law to provide for quicker trial and more stringent punishment in "aggravated sexual assault" cases amid demands for death penalty. The committee interprets its terms of reference as wide enough to include connected areas such as gender justice, respect towards womanhood and ancillary matters.

The committee's task is going to be huge and burden large as the last ten days have raised its expectations. It has already received nearly 6000 petitions and suggestions from various individuals and organisations. Justice (Retd) Leila Seth, former chief justice of Himachal Pradesh and Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor General of India are the other members.

The committee can also review four major Law Commission reports which address the law on rape. Two of these reports were recommendations on the Indian Penal Code in general within which the provision of rape was discussed and two exclusively dealt with reforms related to rape.

These reports are:
1) 42nd Law commission report, 1971,
2) 84th Law commission report, 1980,
3) 156th Law commission report, 1997 and
4) 172nd Law commission report, 2000.

The 172nd Report of the Law Commission, which was prepared on the directions of the Supreme Court as a result of a writ petition filed by one Sakshi (a women's organisation). The Report recommended substitution of the term " Sexual assault" for "Rape" and including all kinds of penetration in the vagina, anus or urethra of another whether by a part of the human body. Some of the recommendations were incorporated in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2010.

That report also had raised red flag and that was 12 years ago.

The Law Commission had said in 2000 that "the present Report focuses on the need to review the rape laws in the light of increased incidents of custodial rape and crime of sexual abuse against youngsters. The crime of sexual assault on a child causes lasting psychic damage to the child and as such, it is essential to prevent sexual abuse of children through stringent provisions. The UN Conventions and various constitutional provisions also underline the need for protecting the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. This Report aims at the attainment of these objectives."

Justice Verma along with another former CJI MN Venkatachalaiah drafted a constitutional amendment that proposes the Lokpal be set up as a constitutional body on the lines of the Election Commission.

Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from Mar 25, 1997 to Jan 18,  1998. He has been a Judge and Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan High Courts. Through his tenure as the judge he was known for judicial creativity in the field of gender and social justice, probity in public life, judicial accountability, sustainable development and human rights.

He was chairman of the one-man commission to inquire into the security lapses leading to Rajiv Gandhi's assassination (1991-1992) and the Chairman of the Committee to suggest operationalisation of the Fundamental Duties (1998-1999).

He was the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission from Nov 4, 1999 to Jan 18, 2003. As chairperson of the NHRC, Justice Verma widened the horizon of human rights, giving special thrust to economic, social and cultural rights along with group rights of the marginalised and minorities.

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